It hasn’t always been like this for Martin Truex Jr.
He’s in the middle of his second Chase for the Sprint Cup in his third season with Furniture Row Racing. But Truex is still a newcomer to being a frontrunner on a weekly basis.
Of all the drivers in the Chase, he’s one of six drivers – and two rookies – in the Chase with less than 10 wins in his Sprint Cup career (Chris Buescher, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott). That career is in its 11th full-time season, which is longer than the careers of six Chase drivers (Buescher, Dillon, Larson, Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano).
Truex’s three wins this season bring his career total to six. Four of those have come in the last two seasons. The first win came back in 2007 at Dover International Speedway, which hosts Sunday’s Chase race on NBCSN.
“I’ve been doing this quite a long time and had a lot of bad seasons where you watch these guys race and lead a bunch of laps and dominate every weekend and you’re like, ‘Man, that’s got to be so awesome,’ you know?” he said Friday.
After his first win, Truex wouldn’t visit victory lane for six seasons. The drought ended when he won at Sonoma Raceway in 2013 with Michael Waltrip Racing. Truex lost his ride after the MWR race manipulation scandal at Richmond in 2013 and landed with Furniture Row Racing, enduring his worst full-time season in 2014.
Then a switch flipped. Truex won the June 2015 race at Pocono and made it all the way to the championship round of the Chase.
Now, with Furniture Row Racing part of a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, Truex is tied with Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin for the second most wins this year and is in the second round of the Chase for the second consecutive season.
“Just to be on the other side of it – to be in that position – has been so much fun,” said Truex, who has led a series-high 1,407 laps this season. “It’s been so rewarding. Obviously, it’s been such a big part of what we’ve been doing the last two years. Obviously, I have to give my team a lot of credit for that, but it’s just so much fun.”
The fun has involved winning this year’s Coca-Cola 600, the Southern 500 and the Chase opening race at Chicagoland Speedway. Truex was .010 of a second from winning the Daytona 500, which would have given him the sport’s triple crown when added to the Coke 600 and Southern 500 win.
This has all been in a season where Truex took a pay cut in order to give his team the best chance at success.
“I’m just enjoying the moment really, and I really appreciate it because I’ve been on the other side more likely most of the time than not,” Truex said.